Ka’ahumanu Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and on the Hawai‘i State Register of Historic Places six years later.
Article by Kekoa Enomoto, published in the June issue of Kepakemapa 2012 (a publication of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs)
Wailuku, Maui — Ka‘ahumanu Church celebrates a 180-year reign at the top of Main Street in historic Wailuku town.
Kahu Wayne Higa salutes “all the küpuna that kept it open for 180 years. We’re just the recipients of those 180 years,” he says.
The church, which sits on the site of a former heiau and part of the royal compound of High Chief Kahekilinui‘ahumanu (circa 1737- 1794), marks the anniversary this month with a daylong fundraiser themed “Restoring Our History.”
The Rev. Jonathan Smith Green held the first worship service there in a shed in 1832 for seven congregants, who grew in number to 3,000 In two years.
That initial year, Häna-born Ka‘ahumanu – favorite wife of Kamehameha the Great; kuhina nui, or queen regent, of the sovereign kingdom of Hawai‘i; and a fervent Christian convert – visited the site and asked that an eventual church structure be named for her. The request was honored when the present sanctuary was built in 1876.
Historians report that in the church cemetery rest John Honoli‘i, a Native Hawaiian who had sailed aboard the ship Thaddeus with the original missionaries in 1820, and Bartimaeus Pua‘aiki, the Blind Preacher of Maui.
Today, Ka‘ahumanu Church offers worship services at 9 a.m. Sundays with hymns in Hawaiian. Also, the church grounds host Pünana Leo O Maui Hawaiian-language immersion preschool. Kahu Higa seeks to refurbish the preschool’s wood-frame building.
With other fundraiser monies, he envisions eventually repairing the foundation and leaning steeple of the nearly two-century-old church. And, plans call for reroofing, waterproofing the exterior and doing historical restoration on pews, windows and front doors.
Moreover, Higa seeks to revive the congregation by inviting community members, especially those whose ancestors may have been congregants – with names like Bailey, Campbell, Hau, Kahale, Purdy and Wirtl.
“We’ve been calling the event ‘Restoring Our History,’ but it’s all more than history. It’s more a restoring of the congregation,” Higa said about a membership that reportedly has swelled from 30 to 75 in the past two years.
“We truly are a congregation that grew,” he said. “We were down to a handful and almost nothing, to actually coming back to life.” ¢
Kekoa Enomoto is a retired copy editor and staff writer with The Maui News and former Honolulu Star-Bulletin.